My eye was on the weather forecast for Brantford Ontario all week as I watched the rain showers pass over us here in Michigan. Yep, the 20th running of the Paris to Ancaster was going to be a muddy one and I was glad I had the 616 Fabrications CX bike built up and ready to rock. Paris to Ancaster is a gravel grinder-ish road race-ish kind of course nestled in the farmland just West of Hamilton Ontario. It’s 60km’s of paved/dirt/muddy trails guaranteed to coat you and your bike head to toe in mud in just under 2hrs time. This year was no different.
The field was stacked. Notables were returning P2A champ and Canadian National CX champ Mike Garrigan, current US CX National Champ Jonathon Page, and rising CX superstar Justin Lindine. My strategy was get near the front off the start, then stay on these 3 guys for the remainder of the race.
I managed a really good start and was first into the narrow rail trail. I stayed right on the front until Mike Garrigan came around and squared himself up for an attack on the right hand turn up the loose tractor trail. It’s the most critical section of the race. Garrigan punched it, Page got by me and a few others. I immediately punched right back and closed the gap to Garrigan. Wow, the legs were good today! I looked back and he and I had a gap as we swung the right hander back onto the pavement! Should I pull through and keep it going? I took the safe route and sat on Garrigan. The pack bridged and swelled.
Normally we head right back into more trails, but this year was different. We kept rolling down the dirt road. I had no idea how long it was until the next trail sector. About a mile down the road I realize I’d been shuffled to the back. I looked up and saw Garrigan, Lindine, and Page all right on the front making a right hander into the next trail sector. Dam! I got caught sleeping. I tried like hell to shuffle through the pack, but it was too narrow and the trail was deep peanut butter mud. The 3 were gone along with a few others. As we made our way back out onto the road, I found myself chasing hard to catch back up to group 2 which was about 7-8 guys. I put in a huge effort to bridge just before we hit the next trail sector. It was too much. I was gasping, but not blown. I let a little gap form and thought maybe there was a chance to get back on if they sat up on the roads ensuing the trail sector.
We swung back out onto the roads and I chased like mad. We made another right hander into a nasty cross wind. It felt like a brick wall. I got to within 20ft of the group, but the cross wind was too much and I dangled off the back and watched the group creep away. I put my head down and recovered the best I could. From then on it was a 25 mile solo time trial to the finish. The worst thing was I could see the group up the road the whole time! I just couldn’t get there.
It’s amazing how a little mistake in a road race can get you thrown out the hatch. This race is especially tactical with the trail sectors and cross winds thrown into the mix. In my earlier days, I was typically strong enough to recover from errors, and I won quite a few of these races, but when you’re racing national champions and others who are just as strong as you are, the margin of error is very slim. You’ve got to be right on top of the moves and tactics, or else you’ll find yourself making small little errors that cost you BIG efforts… and we only have so many BIG efforts in the tank.
Good thing was I never got caught. I ripped down the mud slides and suffered up the 20% grade to the finish line and was able to roll in solo for 10th overall… an improvement on last yrs 15th, so I was pretty happy with that. I still need to improve on my tactics. The 616 Fab CX bike was awesome! The disc brakes were a god send on the mud shoots and I didn’t have to think about the bike the entire race which is a good thing. I also ran the velocity A23 disc wheelset. I had them wrapped with Challenge Open Grifo tires at just under 40psi. The ride quality of the wider rim is fantastic. Never bottom’d the rim out once. I also did two 24oz bottles of infinit nutrition. That was plenty to get by on for the entire race. I even had enough in the tank to ride 20 miles back to the start to get the van.
Well that’s all for now. Big congrats to Justin Lindine on the win in his first try. This guy is on a real tear this spring. Thanks for reading, and remember to brush up your race tactics and course knowledge. It can really make the difference between a podium finish or a just finished.